Economics Goes to the Movies
Goldfinger (1964)
Operation Grand Slam was not to steal the gold from Fort Knox, but to contaminate it with high levels of radiation, reducing the supply of gold available for the marketplace and rendering Goldfinger's gold much more valuable. The logic behind this could be nicely illustrated with a demand curve-supply curve diagram, a temptation that the director of the film resisted.

The movie also includes a not too bad explanation of arbitrage: buy gold at a low price in London, sell it at a high price in Pakistan. The implications for equilibrium geographic price differentials are not pursued.

Gung Ho (1986)
Ohayoo gozaimasu, Michael Keaton! Rust belt and zaibatsu meet with results that will be repeated on both sides of the Atlantic.

It's a Wonderful Life (1946)
Merry Christmas, you wonderful old Building and Loan! This celluloid version of a Norman Rockwell painting includes absent-minded Uncle Billy, mean old Mr. Potter, Bert and Ernie (where have we heard those names since?) but also tinsel-town's exposition of the mechanics of the banking system:

You're thinking of this place all wrong, as if I have the money back in the safe. The money's not here. Your money's in Joe's house, that's right next to yours. And then the Kennedy house and Mrs. Micklin's house and a hundred others. You're lending them the money to build and then they're going to pay it back to you as best they can. Now what're you going to do, foreclose on them?

The Man in the White Suit (1951)
Luddites of the world unite! Before he became a Jedi knight, Alec Guiness played a flaky chemist who invented an indestructible fabric that never gets dirty. Leaders of industry and the proletariat unite to suppress the profit- and employment-destroying discovery "Capital and labour are hand in hand in this" but at the end of the film, alas, the fabric turns out to be as flaky as Guiness.

Superman III (1983)
Up, up, and away! Robert Vaughn tries to corner the world oil market...

Trading Places (1983)
Pork bellies! And amateur anthropology. A major motion picture with a plot that hinges on futures markets. Will Dan Ackroyd and Eddie Murphy, in possession of the secret forecast of the orange harvest, be able to trick the Duke brothers into buying long?


© Stephen Martin 1999